New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer signed his first three ordinances into law Monday that aim to strengthen communities and boost economic growth.
The ordinances, passed earlier this month, make changes to land use policy so employers can more easily develop businesses in the county, while still giving communities an active voice in the process.
“We need land use policy that addresses important and complimentary goals,” Meyer, a democrat, said. “We want land use policy that strengthens neighborhoods, that increases property values, that creates job opportunities, that preserves open space. We need to do that respecting the character of neighborhoods in a way that enables and empowers neighborhoods to define what they want to be.”
The first ordinance adopts a new appendix to the county’s Unified Development Code, which provides principals for site design.
The Department of Planning, the development community and the community will be able to engage in formal communication that formalizes the requirements for design, while also providing flexibility between regulators and development.
The measure offers a more detailed explanation for design preferences for building and street relationships, parking areas, street connectivity, and pedestrian and bicycle access, as well as orientation, scale, massing and architectural elements of buildings.
The second ordinance allows neighborhoods to establish development standards with a two thirds vote, customizing the requirements for their communities. The measure allows communities to protect the character of their community, and them to change and modify the character of their neighborhoods.
“We think the County Council and County and state government have a say in the character of neighborhoods, but the actual neighborhoods also should have a say,” Meyer said.
The final ordinance creates Economic Empowerment Districts that allow business to expand or launch in designated, high-density areas, while still following zoning regulations and protecting those who live adjacent to the proposed property. The EED’s will offer incentives during the permitting process and a streamlined review and approval process.
“Although the Economic Empowerment District ordinance is firmly set within the framework of the UDC, it enables us to start thinking about ways we can be more creative in defining spaces and place making, focusing on the overall design result, rather than on a laundry list of fixed requirements,” said Paul Morrill, executive director of the local business organization, the Committee of 100.
“Allowing innovation this way is key to making the development review process more compatible with new economic realities. We’re in a global competition for jobs every day. To win we have to be nimble. If New Castle County wants to participate and attract 21st century jobs it also needs to make its development review process more nimble and allow it to reward innovation and design with quicker approvals.”